Washingtonians lay claim to an urban legend called “The Plan.” It’s a conspiracy theory-rumor-urban legend that has circulated among the District’s African American residents for decades. Basically, it’s a belief that whites are conspiring to push blacks out of power and out of Washington. Mostly it’s a group of faceless, nameless generic whites. The conspiracy theories repeated earlier this spring by Ward 8 DC Councilmember Trayon White, however, combine elements of The Plan with even older and more widespread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews dominating global markets, governments, and the media.
This narrative has lots of variants, all of them involving some secret cabal of white folks hellbent on whitening the Chocolate City. Like all urban legends and rumors, there are kernels of truth to be found embedded in The Plan. With Washington’s demographic shifts and gentrification over the past two decades, many Washington blacks see The Plan coming to fruition.
My first article for the new folklore blog published by New Directions in Folklore tackles Councilmember White’s comments and the context out of which they emerged. The kernel of truth in White’s conspiracy theory narratives lies in the decades during which Washington area Jewish businessmen wielded an invisible hand in discriminatory housing practices that resulted in generations of concentrated poverty, barriers to accumulating wealth, poor healthcare, and unequal educational opportunities.
The Rothschild family around which the conspiracy theories White recounted may not have been involved in Washington-area businesses but we had our own Rothschilds. Their names were Caffritz, Eig, Freenman, Kay, and Gudelsky.
© 2018 D.S. Rotenstein